Money for our trip

Hi, I am leaving for three weeks in England and Scotland with my mom in a few days. How much US dollars should we bring along with us? Thanks!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8729 posts

None, unless you need something at the airport before you leave or need to pay for parking when you return. All you need to do is make a withdrawal with your regular ATM card from an ATM once you arrive. You could order $100 or so from your bank before you go if that makes you more comfortable to have some pounds before you leave, or you could exchange a little at the airport before you go. But the best, most convenient, cheapest way to get cash is just to use an ATM once you are there. Do be sure that you tell your bank when and where you will be traveling, so that they won't block your card.

Posted by Tod
San Diego, CA, USA
237 posts

In general I agree with Nancy. I usually take about US$100 (in 20s) in addition to whatever cash I have in my pocket and stash it with my passport and back-up plane tickets etc. It's never come up but that's kind of the point of an emergency fund. I like to have about US$100 in local currency when I land at the airport. This step may be less necessary these days with ATMs everywhere and the conversion rates are often outrageous. If you can get some pounds at a reasonable rate take enough to get you into the city and a meal in a pinch and then hit up an ATM at your earliest convenience. I've been stranded at too many airports and unexpectedly diverted to run around without enough money to cover some meals or unexpected travel from a different airport than you planned on. Have a great trip,

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
9472 posts

None, I never bring more then 20 bucks of my own currency to use at airports, why would you need American money in countries that do not accept it. Bring and use your ATM debit card to withdraw cash when you arrive. Its nice to bring 50 bucks of local currency to start with, just in case you are too tired to find an ATM on arrival . Go to your bank make sure they KNOW you will be out of the country, and make sure they put a notation on your file, otherwise they can freeze your card thinkings its being fraudulently used overseas Also .phone the number on the back of your Credit card and do the same, if you do not let them know you are out of country they can and do freeze your account.

Posted by Tom
2876 posts

If your first stop is Heathrow, just get an absolute minimum amount of cash from ATM's there. That's because - unless things have changed recently - the ATM's at Heathrow are all owned by Travelex, a private company. You'll get significantly fewer pounds for your dollar from their machines because of the "margin" they add. Wait til you get into the city and then use a bank-owned ATM - which are everywhere. These will give you the best available exchange rate. The only fees you'll encounter (if any) will be those charged by your own bank.

Posted by Cj
San Francisco, CA, United States
31 posts

Thank you all for your help. I recently got a credit union debit and credit card for travel to avoid fees. Thanks again

Posted by Ken
Spring, Texas
605 posts

I can only put in my personal experience with regards to the Heathrow ATM. I got GBPs last September from a Heathrow ATM for $1.6258/GBP with no ATM fee. The next day I got GBPs at a walk-up bank ATM in Salisbury at 1.6256/GBP but I was also charged a 1% fee (not included in the exchange rate mentioned). I've heard of the horrible Heathrow ATM rates here before and had been avoiding larger withdrawals from there but my data doesn't support the negative comments made about them. I also checked my costs from the Edinburgh airport last month and they are also "fair" compared to later withdrawals at bank ATMs.

Posted by j.c.
NC, United States
868 posts

CJ, I second all the recommendations to use an ATM/debit card and avoid the risk of carrying a lot of cash. As has been said, it is vital to alert the card provider about the dates of your travel and the countries you will be in. I always call the 800 number on the back of the card rather than visit a brick-and-mortar bank. When you speak with the card provider, ask for a toll-free emergency phone number that you can call from overseas. That's how you call them if you lose the card, if a machine eats it, etc. Don't keep that phone number in the wallet with your cards. I usually draw out enough cash for a couple of days at a time and use credit cards for the large expenses like hotels, etc. I do buy roughly 100 pounds at the airport here in the states before departure. I don't get a great deal at the airport, of course, but I really don't want to have to chase around looking for a cash machine as soon as I clear customs on the other end. Having that bit of cash on arrival is a buffer to get me into town, to my hotel, and out and about the next morning. Have a great trip.

Posted by Kathy
148 posts

What my mom and I did last year after we arrived at Heathrow was to buy our tickets for the Heathrow Connect train into London using my credit card, then as soon as we got to Paddington, we used the ATM there to get our first infusion of GBP, thinking that the rate there was better than at Heathrow.